galapagar, (noun, m) – sitio donde abundan los galápagos (a place abounding in tortoises).

I heard of this word today and it particularly appealed to me for its very specific meaning. It seems to be rare and doesn’t appear in any of my Spanish dictionaries, though it does appear in the Diccionario de la Lengua Española.

Related words include:

  • galápago – tortoise; mouldboard; ingot, pig; light saddle; sidesaddle
  • galapagueño – (from) the Galapagos (Islands)
  • galapagueña – native of the Galapagos (Islands)
This entry was posted in English, Language, Spanish, Words and phrases.

21 Responses to Galapagar

  1. Yenlit says:

    Galapagar is also a place near Madrid, Spain the inhabitants’ demonym is ‘galapagueño/a’ and the town is so called due to a nearby lake’s population of turtles. It’s curious that some languages don’t differentiate between tortoise/turtle which both seem quite distinct in English (the same with slug/snail, finger/toe etc.) although US English does tend to use ‘turtle’ for both animals.

  2. LandTortoise says:

    Yes I chose my name “Land Tortoise” as a sort of linguistic joke because in British English “tortoise” is always a land reptile never an amphibian so “land tortoise” is a quaint reduntancy. Of course in Spanish the usual word for tortoise or turtle is “tortuga” which can be qualified with the adjective “terrestre” if land dwelling.

  3. Rauli says:

    Finnish doesn’t differentiate between turtles and tortoises, either. I always find it hard to remember which is which. The Finnish word for both of them is “kilpikonna”, literally shield-toad. We do have separate words for snail/slug and finger/toe, though.

  4. Yenlit says:

    Yeah, “land tortoise” does look like an amusing direct translation resulting in a tautologous English rendering from an on-line translator website. I think I’m right in saying that “turtle” is really just a garbled version by sailors of the same word “tortoise” in Portuguese or Spanish and it became standard English for a “marine tortoise”.
    Welsh has ‘crwban’ for tortoise/turtle but you can qualify it further by saying ‘crwban môr’ or ‘crwban y môr’ (sea-tortoise) to specifically mean a turtle. What about ‘tortoise shell’ has turtle shell the same meaning? You wouldn’t say turtle shell in UK English.

  5. Rauli says:

    I forgot to mention that in Finnish we can also say “maakilpikonna” (land shield-toad) and “merikilpikonna” (sea shield-toad) to specify which animal we’re talking about. and seem to support Yenlit’s theory about sailors pronouncing a foreign word badly.

  6. prase says:

    Most languages don’t differentiate between turtles and tortoises, they are visibly similar and it’s natural to have the same word for both. By the way, the tortoises (turtles) living in sweet water fall to which category? And what’s the difference between spanish galápago and tortuga? Is it the same as English turtle/tortoise?

    In Czech we have two distinct words for different types of seal: lachtan is the eared seal and tuleň is the earless seal. Quite unusual to have such distinction for a landlocked language, but I think it originates from 19th century, when the language revivalists thought that a civilised language has to have an extensive native biological terminology. Unfortunately, the tortoise/turtle dichotomy wasn’t introduced and we have the same word (želva) for both.

  7. Yenlit says:

    I’m unfamiliar with the term “sweet water” is that ‘fresh water’? I know that terrapins (North American turtle) inhabit fresh and brackish waters of coast swamps if that’s what you were asking? We make the same distinction regarding seals in English, seals and sea lions which are the ones that have visible ears I think?

  8. TJ says:

    This sounds a bit, maybe, like our own speech when we borrow words from English (like Save and Load) and we would twist the words to fit the Arabic scheme.
    Seems, as long you didn’t find the word in your dictionaries, that it is a slang or a new-made word maybe? I think in English this is so common; you take an object, a well-known one, and fit it into a verb with a specific meaning related to that object.

    I’m not so familiar with Spanish though I tried once to teach myself, but first time I saw Galapagar, it sounded to me like a verb more than a noun, for the -ar ending.

  9. Tommy says:


    The -ar ending in Spanish is typically to denote “a place” full of something, but in some cases the same word can be used a noun.

    A good example is “salar”, which of course comes from “sal” (salt), and means “salt field” (or 塩湖 enkou “salt lake” in Japanese). There are some famous salares in Bolivia, like Salar de Uyuni. The same word “salar” can also be used to mean “to salt” something, like to “put some salt on something” to give it flavor.

    Manzanar is an apple (manzana) orchard. Platanar (sometimes “platanal”) is a banana (platano) plantation. Olivar is an olive grove (olivo is an olive tree, oliva is the fruit, aceituna is the food).

  10. Simon says:

    prase – tortuga can mean both turtle and tortoise in Spanish, while galápago is one species of tortuga.

    Here are definitions from the Diccionario de la Lengua Española:

    tortuga: 1. Reptil marino del orden de los Quelonios; 2. Reptil terrestre del orden de los Quelonios

    galapágo: Reptil del orden de los Quelonios, parecido a la tortuga.

    More information

  11. prase says:

    Yenlit – of course I meant fresh water, I don’t know what I was thinking about. I was asking whether e.g. the emydidae are turtles or tortoises. They usually spend their life in water, but have legs suitable for walking.

    As for seals and sea lions: According to Wikipedia, the pinnipeds divide into three families: walruses (odobenidae), eared seals (otariidae) and earless seals (phocidae). Sea lions are subgroup of eared seals, but there are also fur seals in this group. Czech “lachtan” is a general name applicable to any member of otariidae, while “lvoun” corresponds to sea lions specifically.

  12. Yenlit says:

    I was wondering if there was any etymological information for the word “galápago” but couldn’t find anything definitive leading me to superficially speculate ie. wildly guess whether the word had anything to do with Latin “galea” (helmet) or “galeatus” (helmeted) or “galla” (gall, oak-apple) which could all be easily connected by allusion with tortoises. But most websites comment that galápago is actually an old term describing a part of a rider’s saddle resembling the shell of a tortoise.

  13. prase says:

    Damn. I have sent a reply, but it didn’t appear. In short, yes, I meant fresh water, there are many fresh water type of tortoises, e.g. the family emydidae.

    Eared seals (otariidae) form a broader group than sea lions, according to Wikipedia. Czech “lachtan” corresponds to the whole otariidae family, “lvoun” is specifically a sea lion.

  14. Yenlit says:

    Like you originally said, it is surprising and interesting that such a landlocked nation as the Czech Republic would have such an extensive marine mammal lexicon. Were these words borrowed from other Slavic languages or are they true Czech neologisms?

  15. TJ says:

    @Tommy: thanks for the info 🙂

  16. prase says:

    @Yenlit: I am not sure, since I don’t have my etymological dictionary here, but as I remember:
    “tuleň” (seal) is probably borrowing from Russian (тюлень), and ultimately from some Uralic language (Sami?). Bulgarian and Croatian have similar cognates (also borrowed), Polish and Serbian use “foka”.
    “mrož” (walrus) is present in all Slavic languages (morž, mors, морж) and it even made its way to Romanian (morsă), so it is probably quite old word which existed in the common Slavic language.
    “lachtan” is very probably purely Czech creation of 19th century zoologists. Other Slavic languages use constructions analogical to “eared seal”, like Russian “ушастый тюлень”, or Polish “uchatka”.
    “lvoun” (sea lion) is also a Czech construction, based on “lev” = lion.
    “rypouš” (elephant seal) is based on “rypák” = snout, pig’s nose. Other Slavic languages call it sea elephant (e.g. Russian морской слон).

  17. Rauli says:

    @prase: Your reply did appear, it was just awaiting moderation because of the link you posted. It happened to me to, I don’t know if anyone even noticed my second post when it appeared.

    In Finnish we call fresh water “sweet” as opposed to salty.

  18. Rauli says:

    I have to say this: the second “to” was supposed to be “too”, the typo was purely an accident. I can’t stand it when people mix up those words, and now it happened to me _too_ 😉

  19. Yenlit says:

    @prase – I’d call emydidae terapins or turtles never tortoises.

  20. Your reply did appear, it was just awaiting moderation because of the link you posted. It happened to me to, I don’t know if anyone even noticed my second post when it appeared.

  21. Adam Jones says:

    I would normally say Môr-grwban (conjunctive)for turtle as I was discussing it the other day when referring to the large leather back turtles that visit the Welsh coast annually I said

    Sai ‘di weld Môr-grwban erioed (I have never seen a turtle)
    too wich the ecologist replied
    Dwi wedi gweld llawer o grwbanod y môr yn fy amser i yma (I have seen many sea turtles during my time here)

    Therefore although its an allmignation of the word for tortoise that being Crwban I would Say Welsh has two ways to say turtles and one way to say tortoise.

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